Perhaps For One Day More – part 2

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and its wonderful characters belong to Squenix/Square/whatever-its-name-is/rich Japanese guys, so don't try to sue me… But the story belongs to me.

I want to acknowledge my brother for his brilliant ideas with this part of the story, since I was stuck and basically uninspired before he helped me out… He has a lot of ideas but he says he can't write. Bah. Anyone can write. Anyway, I think he did it because he loves VincentXTifa as much as I do… well… maybe not… Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this last part. Thanks again to all those who reviewed part one, in case I forgot anyone in emails and such…

…And thanks to whatevergirl: Your email isn't on display and everybody else got a thank-you email and I feel bad. :sniffle: But yeah, Marlene's getting more from Vincent than Tifa is, isn't she? Hopefully this part changes things a bit. Also, to "a reviewer." Very mysterious penname indeed… Thanks for your review! I was hoping that this would improve "At Least." Please enjoy part two…

New Nibelheim was so quiet, now that Christmas was over, she thought. There weren't too many customers today, since people were probably sleeping in after staying up late for New Years parties, and florists were never too busy, except for during Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, and sometimes on birthdays. There were a few customers here this morning, but only one of them caught her attention.

He'd been standing there, waiting for her at the door, when she was ready to open the place at 8:15. He looked so damn imposing, tall and dark, with a black outfit and then a red cape to top it off. He'd looked up at her emotionlessly with blood-red eyes, she thought, but it could have been a trick of light or her already untamable imagination. She had to admit that his claw looked somewhat bad-ass as well. She thought she'd seen him somewhere before, but never from up this close, and now that she had the opportunity, she felt safer behind the counter, where the shotgun leaned against one of the drawers. Just in case the dangerous man was more than just a scary costume…

She kept her eyes on the dark man as he suddenly moved to study the chrysanthemums. A pretty funny sight, she thought, seeing this dark, pale man standing amidst lively colors and pretty things. Perhaps he had yet to shop for a sweetheart. He seemed pretty eager to get in here anyway.

She stood up and then leaned forward, putting her elbows on the counter as she craned her neck to follow his movements around her store.

"Hey, sir, can I help you look for something?" she called after him. The sooner he left the place, the safer she'd feel, after all.

He slowly lifted his gaze to her—with those creepy eyes of his—and then shook his head before picking up some white chrysanthemums and moving on.

Okay, whatever, Mr. Tall-Dark-And-Evil-Dude, I wouldn't want to bother you anyway… Geez.

She shrugged and then sat down on the stool behind the counter so she could fiddle with the radio next to her.

A few minutes later, the dark man was walking by the roses with white chrysanthemums and pink carnations in one arm. He'd taken quite a bit of time making his purchases, standing still for a few moments so his eyes closed with thought. She wondered what had been on his mind. He'd stopped by the roses for a moment, noting each of the colors, and as an afterthought, he picked up a single pink rose, before making his way towards her.

She turned the radio down a bit and stepped over to the cash register as he approached the counter.

"Good morning, sir," she greeted him, as though she weren't just glaring at him or dubbing him 'Mr. Tall-Dark-And-Evil-Dude.'

He looked up at her, seemingly at a loss for a moment before he replied, "Good morning."

She smiled at him as she took the flowers from him. "Would you like these flowers delivered, sir? We can have them delivered today, if you—"

"No thank you… I will deliver them myself."

"…Oh… alright…" As she figured out the prices, she idly wondered, "So, is this for a girlfriend or something?"

"Or something," he informed her, his eyes looking down at the floor.

He must have been guilty for being so late with his gift. Flowers were the best way to warm a girl's heart, though, so perhaps if he made that pouty face as he gave the girl flowers, she'd forgive him.

This always happens when the weird customers come in…

She sighed. It was tough, being a romantic and working in a flower shop. At least she didn't read romance novels. Besides, her imagination was wild enough for her to play out scenes in her head.

The lady in the flower shop had acted strange, studying him first with fear and then suddenly acting light-hearted when he approached the counter, assuming he'd had a gift for a lover or wife, and then she offered to add more to his bouquet, to make it look fuller and more extravagant. But he wanted to keep it simple, and he asked for the single pink rose to be left alone, excepting to cut off the thorns. Marlene would appreciate that, he thought.

He'd stood in irresolution for some time in the flower shop, suddenly remembering something about the meanings of flowers, something from long ago. He'd lifted a hand to finger the delicate carnation petals before his eyelids drifted downward as the memory played out in his mind.

"Vincent, do you know what these flowers mean?" Lucrecia gathered a few into her arms and closed her eyes with a heavenly sigh.

He folded his arms across his chest and looked down at the plants dispassionately. "…No, Lucy, but I imagine you're going to tell me."

"These carnations... Some say that they mean gratitude."

"And those over there?" He gestured to the white flowers, taking a step towards her.

"White chrysanthemums? Truth…"

"…And what of those?" He pointed to the red roses, and then he moved until he was right beside her.

She looked at him then, noting with pleasant surprise the unanticipated softness of his steady, brown-eyed gaze, and then she smiled broadly. "The red roses mean love, Mr. Valentine… and you should know that."

And he promptly showed her that he did indeed know the meaning, and Lucrecia's flowers soon slipped from her hands and fell neglected to her feet.

He'd been taken out from his reverie when someone in the store brushed past him, and he realized that he was spending too much time thinking… about Lucrecia… when he needed to focus on the task at hand…

His next place of business was the bookstore, and he had a pretty good idea of what to get Marlene.

He began humming the song that he'd had stuck in his head for quite some time now, while he began thumbing through a few fairytales from the bookshelf. Once he picked up something that had a possibility of being interesting for Marlene, something that didn't look like anything he'd ever seen in her collection, he made his way to the cashier.

At the corner of his eye, he spotted something familiar and froze for a moment. There was a small rack with a few sketchbooks on display, and one of them had a gray and black cover, like the one he'd seen Marlene drawing in. Did she need a new one? Surely another couldn't hurt…

He picked it up and continued on his way, frowning as a thought occurred to him. Besides flowers, he couldn't imagine what else Tifa might enjoy. At least, he couldn't think of anything special.

What could he…?

He couldn't put his finger on it, as the song continued off his lips, and even after he bought Marlene's books.

He decided to return to the mansion, to gather his thoughts again, before he'd deliver his gifts to Tifa's house. He figured that Tifa and the others would be awake by now. He just hoped that they wouldn't be home when he made his deliveries…

The first day of January, and it snowed more than it had for Christmas. Therefore, it was no surprise when Marlene and Yuffie both decided to play in the pristine snow after their breakfast, with Tifa following closely behind in her heavy winter coat.

She was disappointed that Vincent left without a note or anything, even though she knew he was leaving. She suspected that he wouldn't be staying in Nibelheim either… and she didn't know what to think about that. At least, she didn't want to think about it anymore…

"Barret, do you want to come outside?" Tifa asked in the doorway. "It's so nice…"

"…I suppose so… I won't be doing any of that crazy snowball-throwin' business though.

I'm an old man, you know."

She smiled weakly and said, "Well, hurry up. We're headed towards the mountains for awhile…"

By the time Barret and Tifa got there, Yuffie and Marlene had already engaged in a snowball fight, enjoying the last moments they would have at their friend's house, even though there would be other opportunities to visit.

"Watch out, Yuffie!" Tifa warned. "Marlene may look quiet, but she's vicious with a snowball!"

Marlene giggled and struggled to run in her obstructing snow pants, and bent to gather a ball of snow into her hands.

Yuffie hid behind the nearest tree and shouted, "I'm not going down so easily! Marlene, let's join forces!"

Instantly taken with this suggestion, Marlene suddenly turned in place, her eyes twinkling with mischief as her gaze locked with Tifa's.

"You wouldn't dare," the woman said softly as the little girl came closer.

Marlene laughed and tossed the snowball, but it landed at Tifa's feet. Afraid of Tifa's retaliation, the young girl ran back to Yuffie for protection, but apparently there was some sort of betrayal going on.

She felt a sudden merciless coldness at her neck, and she screamed as Yuffie poured more snow down the back of her coat.

Tifa gathered a snowball into her hand and ran to assist the young girl, even though she had just planned an attack on her person.

Barret just shook his head as he watched from a distance, tempted to grab a snowball and throw a few at Yuffie, with enough impact to knock her down, but he was much more curious at how Marlene and Tifa would act.

Yuffie mercilessly bombarded Marlene with snowballs, while the young girl attempted to throw a few random piles of snow at her, since she had little time to make her ammunition.

Yuffie cackled evilly, just before a snowball was launched at her face and into her mouth. She spattered a threat to Tifa, who giggled at her small victory and then immediately bent to shape another snowball.

The fight was long and tedious, and they each disputed who emerged victorious, even though everyone now had a red nose and snow soaking through their pants and hats.

Even though Yuffie claimed that it was her victory, Barret muttered to himself, "Marlene's game, hands down…"

Tifa smiled at his unrelenting pride for her, and then said breathlessly, "Alright everyone… let's go have some lunch…"

"Lunch time, already?" Yuffie asked, scratching her head.

Barret glanced down at his watch. "Tha's right… It's about noon."

"Well, alright then, Tif. You pick a place!" Yuffie was all for it, and she had every reason to be—this was the last few hours they had together before Yuffie went back home and Tifa was still undecided on her plans for moving.

After having set down the gifts in the foyer, Vincent thoughtfully stepped through the old mansion. He'd been the only one living here ever since Sephiroth's defeat, and he'd burned all sorts of remnants from his pasts—notes and books from Professor Hojo, wiped away all the dust and removed moth-eaten sheets. Kept the piano, though he wasn't sure why…

He had rights to this building, and it was almost like a secret base to him, a place where he could hide, but he couldn't imagine staying here much longer.

He went upstairs, still murmuring the unrelenting tune of the song, and his feet were mysteriously drawn to the room with the piano.

He paused in the doorway briefly, well aware of the power this room held, and then stepped inside, his eyes on the ebony and ivory piano keys. He could hardly picture himself playing anymore, not with the lack of dexterity from his claw. But he sat down on the bench and lifted his right hand to the keys, and then quickly withdrew his fingers, as though a spark had gone through him.

Clenching his jaw, he tried again, his long flingers splayed across the white keys and absently pressing on the ones that would match the tune that had plagued him for the entire day.

It was then that he remembered from where he heard that song. Tifa and Marlene were the ones who hummed it on Christmas day, but more specifically, he remembered that the famous song was also of a great composer…

Tifa didn't play the piano much anymore. He'd caught her seated at her piano a few times, frustrated and impatient with herself as her fingers stumbled over the keys. Was it all because of her pain from Cloud, or was she simply uninspired?

The composer's name came back to him then… Dionisi… The man was dead long before Tifa's time, as well as his own… But she would still appreciate his sheet music, couldn't she? She was always humming whenever they traveled with Cloud and the others before…

… He would have loved to hear her play the piano, but he simply couldn't be there when she returned. Another time, perhaps, he would stand beside her as she played, to see her swaying with the music she played, to see Marlene sitting next to her and turning the pages for her…

Another time—in a dream, for he knew that in reality it could not be…

…but couldn't it? No. He wouldn't fool himself.

He shook his head to push the thoughts away and then rose to his feet. He'd delayed enough; it was time to leave.

Barret set down some gil on the table and stood up. "Sorry to leave… You're my favorite ladies an' all, but… I've gotta go take care of a few things." He winked at Marlene, and she smiled, but she couldn't have known his plan to get her another sketchbook on his way back home. She seemed low on paper the last time he saw her drawing…

Tifa smiled as she played with the straw in her drink and told him to take care, while Yuffie appeared somewhat oblivious, craning her neck to watch for the waitress so she could ask for another beverage. And then she whipped her head around to go, "Oh, bye Barret..."

"Bye, Yuffie…" He ran a hand through Marlene's hair and she quietly looked up at him, smiling weakly.

"Dad, can I go too?"

"Nah, you hang out with the ladies… I'd bore you to death."

She lowered her eyes in disappointment, but he knew that within moments of Tifa and Yuffie's company, she'd feel better. It hurt him to leave her like that, sometimes, and one day he would have to sit her down and explain himself to her…

Yeah, and what're you gonna say to her, Wallace? "Aw, baby, I don't know what to do with you. Maybe I should send you off to live with someone else…"

No, he couldn't say that, because he loved Marlene more than anything in the world, and somehow he would just have to figure out this whole "parenting" thing, no matter what. He would do it for her, and he would do it for himself.

He left the small café then, mindful of the time as he went to buy another sketchbook for Marlene.

On his way to the store, he saw a flutter of a dark red cape moving away from Tifa's house, and then he stopped to look, but there was no one there.

"Valentine?" he muttered. What the hell—I thought he left already…

Maybe it had been a trick of light anyway. He shook his head and continued to the bookstore.

Yuffie felt a tinge of regret, leaving Tifa even though Marlene and Barret agreed to stay for awhile, which Yuffie assumed was because Barret needed someone to take care of Marlene. At times, his manner with her seemed awkward, as though he didn't know what quite to say, and Tifa would somehow always notice those moments and save him by distracting the girl. It was interesting to watch this common exchange, and Yuffie thought it was curious that everyone probably didn't expect her to be so aware of her surroundings. Perhaps she didn't fit the description of a ninja so well. Her father didn't think so either…

She smiled to herself as she hoisted her bag over her shoulder, and half-turned to look up at Tifa, who stood in the doorway, probably dutifully waiting for her friend to disappear with her chocobo before deciding to turn away and shut the door.

"Thanks for everything, Tif," she said, and then hurried back to her friend for a quick hug. "That pie was good—so good that you shouldn't be surprised if I come back later for more."

Tifa gestured back to the kitchen, her eyebrows lifted. "Would you like me to make you some pie for the road…? It wouldn't be a problem."

Tifa was too sweet for her own good, and as evil as she could be, Yuffie didn't think it was wise to take advantage of her friend's generosity. "Oh, no thanks… I had my fill last night," she said, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "If you recall…"

Tifa smiled brightly. "Yeah, that belching… so lady-like," she commented. But upon noticing Yuffie's blushing cheeks, she quickly recovered with, "It's okay though, Yuff…"

"Heh… Yeah, I guess I am quite the lady… aren't I? Alright, I'd best be off… Thanks for everything, Tifa. I'll see you soon!"

"Yes—you better! You can always write too, if you want… and tell me about all those lovely Wutaiian boys you meet…"

"'Lovely Wutaiian boys?'" Yuffie repeated. "Are you kidding? They're all like… EIGHTY!"

They giggled at that for a few moments, making a few more comments about the type of men they dealt with, unaware that Barret had heard them and was now muttering to himself about how worried he'd be when Marlene noticed boys.

Yuffie could hear, however, when Marlene showed Barret her new sketchbook. "What?" he asked. "Where'd that come from? I only bought you one…"

Her attention drew back to Tifa, whose steady smile would always be in her thoughts.

"Okay, Yuffie… Have a safe trip…"

"Later, Tif… I'll miss our snowball fights."

Tifa nodded. "Likewise."

After a bit more exchanges of memories with her friend, Yuffie finally turned away and left, with her eyes on the ground so she could step on thin layers of ice and break them as though they were glass shards.

She wondered if Tifa would feel better or worse, now that Cloud seemed to have completely moved on. After Aeris died, he certainly seemed different. A little less of a wise-ass, maybe, but then in the recent years he'd regained his ego and became laid-back again. She supposed that after saving the world, the man deserved a break. Yuffie thought it was damn inconsiderate for him to go out with some other chick, though, when she had seen the way Tifa watched him...

Men… What morons…

Barret was muttering to himself about how he only got Marlene one sketchbook, and he'd wondered where the hell the extra one came from, and then he wandered off to his room, probably getting ready to leave with Marlene in a day or two. Tifa didn't mind anymore; she could deal with it, now that she knew she was able to keep them at least until today. It had been a beautiful holiday.

She was tired, though, and she would have to go back to work tomorrow… A nap would probably be wise, and it would probably distract her from all the things she felt right now.

For some reason, she did feel a sense of loss. Not for Barret or Marlene. Not for Cloud or Yuffie… or anyone else… except…

Vincent. She felt like something was wasted, the way he just left after she thought they could move their friendship along. The man only appeared cold, but in many recent instances—particularly those when he was with Marlene—Tifa knew that this frigid manner was only something on the exterior side of Vincent Valentine. Heaven forbid somebody got Vincent to put his defenses to rest so he could ease down a bit and have a grand time with friends, but these things took time, and Vincent was a unique case anyway. She was willing to help him in this, but she doubted he would let her until she found him, and she didn't even know how the hell she'd do that…

Moreover, she was a little upset, and felt a little cheated, that he didn't get her anything for Christmas. Or Marlene. She didn't expect anything at first, but… perhaps she simply assumed too much. She'd been so happy when he agreed to come celebrate the holiday, and that must have been so hard for him, but her hopes were too high and then he left her. She should have expected it, instead of being so oblivious and only trying to hear what she wanted to hear, and see what she wanted to see… When would she ever learn to stop that?

She slumped down to the couch in the living room, thinking to take a nap, where Marlene was drawing in her new sketchbook. There was also a beautiful pink rose stuck in the young girl's hair, which Tifa thought was a bit odd. She didn't remember anyone going to the florist recently.

She furrowed her brow. "Hey, Marlene, did Barret get you that pretty flower?"

The girl shook her head and smiled weakly. "No, it was on my bed… The sketchbook was there too… and a fairytale book… I think Vincent brought them for me…"

"Vincent?" she echoed in disbelief.

She stood up again and looked out the window, as though she might catch Vincent moving about outside, but the elusive man was nowhere in the street. Did she expect him to be leaning up against a tree with his bags and things at his feet, waiting for her to approach him to say their goodbyes, his red eyes steadily watching her?

She was acting ridiculous, she knew, and she suddenly forgot why she wanted to take a nap. She left the living room and wandered back to her room, feeling miserable.

Vincent gave something to Marlene, but not to her? Perhaps he didn't think she'd mind; that's what she deserved for being so forgiving and so submissive when someone had neglected her…

Her feet brought her to the bed and she collapsed on it; the old bed creaked under her weight. She gazed up at the ceiling.

That was it. She would just have to move in with Yuffie, just as she planned, because otherwise, the loneliness would get to her…

She let out a heavy sigh and she began humming a song in fragments. It was the song she sang with Marlene when she combed her hair, by some old composer from Midgar, whose name escaped her. She turned her head absently to the piano, trying to remember.

And then she saw a bouquet of flowers on the bench—white chrysanthemums and pink carnations, along with just the right amount of complementing, branch-like flowers; it was beautiful in its simplicity. And sheet music that she'd never seen before rested against piano; the name Dionisi written in fancy script across the pristine white cover.

She might have to start playing again…

She shook her head in denial even as a small smile tugged up the edges of her lips, and she slipped off the bed to step over to the bench. There were chocolates, too, and she knew very well from which box they came …

A note lay across the flowers, a small light blue card folded over, and she picked it up so she could read the simple message:

"Thank you, Tifa. V."

Tears welled up in her eyes and she carefully gathered her flowers up in her arms, so she could sit on the bench. And she silently admonished herself for ever doubting Vincent Valentine.

Somehow, her gifts couldn't measure up to his, and she knew that from hereon, he wouldn't be too far from her thoughts.

She decided that she would just have to find him and thank him, then, for the lovely gifts.

Author's Note: Alright… Pink carnations mean gratitude. White chrysanthemums mean truth. And a pink rose means friendship… Hopefully, you guys will able to figure out why Vincent chose those, and you probably knew about all those Victorian flower meanings anyway. And you'll probably also dispute those meanings, but so does everyone else... but you know what, it's the sentiment that matters… and Marlene and Tifa will take the gesture for whatever they please… :glomps Vincent: So… hopefully that end was an "awww" factor… If not, then I failed miserably and we can discuss my punishment at a later date.

Why did I do that one scene from the flower shop lady's perspective? I don't know. I was bored. And I wanted to use the nickname Mr. Tall-Dark-And-Evil-Dude… poor Vincent. Tall, dark, and handsome, if you ask me… Ahem.

Anyway, Dionisi… Stefano Dionisi is the name of a VERY lovely actor, but I think the name Dionisi sounds like some famous composer… so I thought I'd use it. If there is a famous composer by that name, this guy has no relation to him whatsoever… Anyway, I guess he'd be as awesome as Mozart, if one had to compare him to someone…

…Oh great, now I want to write a mushy Vincent story with Tifa… after a goodbye like that. It's going to be a vicious cycle of "Oh yeah? Well, I've got a better gift for you, buddy." Oh well. I didn't want to rush their relationship, but I wanted to let you all know that there's "something" there…

:glomps Vincent: